Monday, November 29, 2010

The Long Weekend was Short on Riding

The weather and family obligations over the holiday weekend made it tough to find some Jessie time. Don't get me wrong, it was great spending time with family. My sister-in-law puts on a fantastic meal and family had come in from Bend,Or. and Salt Lake City.

I had to work most of Friday and that left just Saturday and Sunday for riding. We woke up early on Saturday had breakfast and while we were putting on layers of clothes to go ride, clouds rolled in and the threat of rain appeared. We put the ride on hold until the sun broke through around 11am and we saddled up.

We rode for about two hours working on a few things including our new loping exercises. Ranae was helping me work on my hand position and just keeping them quieter while we're loping.

Saturday afternoon the weather drove me back into the house after doing some yard work, so I thought this would be a good time to reload the RWC Series 3 discs and start working through them once again. I got through disc one on Saturday and since the weather was really blustery on Sunday, I worked my way through disc two. The only problem with watching them is it makes you want to ride. Oh well, maybe next weekend...

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Little is Better Than None

Saturday was cold, drizzily, and rainy all day. I had to spend the day doing chores and cleaning my office, catching up on filing and the boring crap like that. It rained quite a bit in the early hours of Sunday and the pens were a mess by the time I woke up. The forecast was for rain most of the day although the sun was trying valiantly to break through the clouds.

After breakfast, I did my best to clean the pens. I pulled Jessie out and picked her feet and brushed her up. She was quite the mess, too. The wind kicked up and the clouds moved and chased me back inside. About half an hour later it settled down a little and I did some yard work. The sun would come out for a bit and I would take my jacket off, then it would get cold and I would put the jacket back on.

Around noon I decided it might be stable enough to ride and I got Jessie out again. As I was getting her ready the wind came through again. I decided I would opt for some groundwork. There's a little area out back that we could work in and if it started to rain we could end the session quickly. It's under some trees with dirt ground that was still damp (but not muddy) from the rain. We started with just some simple exercises, circle driving, and lunging for respect stage I. We were doing the lunging at a walk because the area required a small circle and the ground was a little slippery. When I switched to stage two, the tree branches blowing above our heads, the freshness of the day, and the antics of the nearby horses got Jessie all jacked up. We did a lot of direction changes and she kicked up, but finally I thought she was paying attention.

Then for about half an hour we just fooled around doing stuff we hadn't worked on much before. Side-passing toward me, backing in a circle, changing eyes stage two, lunging a figure eight around some cones. Our last de-sensitizing exercise was clipping her fall whiskers. She was perfectly happy to stand still for that. So, while it wasn't a ride, at least I felt like we got some work(for her/play for me) in.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


My friend Courtney sent some pictures of her horse Lucy while they were at the Doununder Horsemanship Clinic earlier this month. I noticed Lucy had a nice shine to her coat in the pictures and when I emailed Courtney to find out what she was using, she told me it was S.W.E.A.T.. I had to get some for my horse, but not being familiar with the product I did a quick Wiki search. Turns out S.W.E.A.T. is not a product you can buy and, get this, it's considered gross if you use somebody's else S.W.E.A.T. on your horse. S.W.E.A.T. is actually an acronym for Solution With Exercise Activated Triggers - essentially a substance secreted by the horse in response to work. The best part is IT'S FREE!

Now, I had thought I had work Jessie pretty hard in the past but had never seen this stuff. I was determined to get some out of her, so armed with a stopwatch, we headed out to the biggest field we could find. Once there we started loping and the stopwatch. She wasn't real hot on the idea, even though I tried to explain how good it would maker her look. After about 5 minutes we stopped and I checked her out. Ah, there was a little shine. It was working. Let's keep going. We loped another 5 then walked for about ten and went back to loping.

It was working! She was really getting shiny - and looking good. Something else was happening too. This S.W.E.A.T. stuff not only works on the outside of the horse, but the inside as well. About halfway through the second ten minute session she started to slow down, her lope got more comfortable to sit, and it was even easier to steer. The next day we did it again and it got even better! Who knew?

I've gotta admit I was a little disappointed when I found out you could not buy S.W.E.A.T. And, there's another drawback - I noticed that every time some gets on her, some usually shows up on me too. But the effects are remarkable and I'm sure as soon as word gets out about S.W.E.A.T., SOMEONE will figure out a way to put it in a bottle and make a million bucks.

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's Nice to Own a Good Horse

I don't know how you decide what a good horse is. My horse is not the most athletic, or the most sensitive to cues, but she has a good head on her. That doesn't means she doesn't do stupid things...she does. It's what she does after she does something stupid that tells me I have a good horse.

Yesterday was a good case in point. We had ridden pretty hard on Saturday and were looking forward to a steady ride on Sunday morning. It was a beautiful, cool day as we headed down the same canal bank we almost always head down. Ranae and I are talking, the horses are looking around. Every once in a while one horse may balk. Just stop for no apparent reason. It's annoying, but the other horse is charged with going forward and the stopped horse has to get their stuff together, get over whatever alarmed them and catch up. Now, if they balk at something once we are out we really make them work. This one area of the canal is about 1/4 mile from home and has been a problem going out never coming home. We decided it was their little way of protesting going for a ride (I left a perfectly good flake of hay and a nap for this?), so we've been ignoring their behavior (it's really not that bad)

Okay, we are riding along Dusty stops, Jessie and I keep going. Jessie is no dummy, she likes Dusty right up there with her because she knows whatever horse-eating plastic bag, tarp, bicycle, etc is up there, they are going to eat Dusty first and give her an opportunity to escape. Without Dusty she becomes hyper-vigilant because she thinks she's the main course. "OMG!(No really, that's the way she talk's) A tarp or something is in the canal!" Yes, it was there yesterday, but that's not the point.

Now, to set this up properly, it's important to know that kids ride their bicycles up and down the canal and recently created a big jump by digging a large, deep ditch. This ditch was, you guessed it, right across from the scary tarp in the canal.

Jessie is not spooky afraid of the tarp, she is just giving it the evil eye and hoping Dusty comes up so he'll be eaten first IF said tarp should decide to charge at us. I turn Jessie to face it, because that's what we do - we face our fears. When I urged her to go forward, like an idiot she stepped backward. Yep, right into the ditch.

Everything that happened in the next 5 seconds was in slow motion. As we were tipping backwards slipping into the ditch I was thinking "Are you doing this?" and I could see her eye and she had a look like "Are YOU doing this?" I've trained myself to relax the reins and grab some mane when she trips or stumbles so I don't pull her off balance by yanking on the reins. But, now we're stuck in this ditch. It reminded me a little of the feeling of sitting on the toilet without putting the seat down - a little stunned and "What just happened?" running through my mind. I asked myself "What would Clinton say?" Well, I think he would say she has to be responsible for her own feet. If that's the case, honey you got us into this mess, you need to get us out. I laid forward on the saddle horn, Ranae said she was on her front knees and she calmly hoisted us up and out of there. Once we were out, we stood there for a one Mississippi then walked by the scary (not so scary) tarp. Once we were well past it we stopped and checked for injuries. There were none.

I think it may have helped that on Saturday's ride we had practiced backing up and down some hills, or, maybe not. She is just so cool under some circumstances it's scary. I know there may be times when we get stuck in it and things might not end so well, but I'm certain if I need to put my trust in her, she'll take care of us.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hey, We Learnt Something

We are riding back from our usual haunts on Sunday morning lamenting how people are dumping garbage all along our riding area. I can't figure out what makes people think it's okay to dump their shit anywhere they want. We all pay for trash pickup through our property taxes. They can't use that system?

Anyway, we are riding along and there is this wooden frame thing that is about two feet wide by three feet long. I make the joke that we would try and do a spin inside it. Ranae says we could do a turn keeping two feet inside the box. So, we turn around and I try it first with Jessie's front feet inside the box. She does well and we go both directions.

Ranae wants to try it with Dusty's back feet in the box. Ah, much more challenging! She gets his back feet in the box and starts to yield the forequarters around. At about the halfway mark he steps one of his back feet out of the frame. Ranae stops and tries to get him back in the box. She does and finishes the circle in that direction and says how hard it was to tell where Dusty's feet were and how she needed to move only one back foot. I remembered some Pat Parelli (I think) show a long time ago where he touched one side of the horse's muzzle to move the opposite back foot. I told Ranae as she was in the box, that when Dusty's foot came out, let's try asking for a backup and picking up the opposite rein of the foot we wanted to move. It worked! She needed to back his left rear back in the box. She asked for the backup while picking up the right rein and he moved his left hoof back in the frame. We tried it with Jessie and it worked on her too.

It's still hard for us to figure out on our own which foot needs to be moved, but it was fun figuring out we could move just one back foot at a time.

Here's a thirty second video of how Jessie goes back to her pen after her bath at the end of our ride:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Changing Horses

On Saturday the weather was "iffy" at best. There was wind and rain from Friday afternoon on. Saturday morning was cloudy and blustery. We decided to postpone our long ride until the afternoon in the hopes that conditions improved. I'm not much for riding in the rain.

By one o'clock nothing had happened and the clouds had subsided some and we decided to go for it. We saddled up the horses and headed east out to the city farm. We put our horses in a trot and, judging from the way my inner thigh muscles are talking to me this morning, kept them at a trot for quite some time. We did break up some of the trotting with loping in between, and about every 10-15 minutes, gave them a walking break. We covered over 10 miles as measured by the Garmin, in just under 3 hours. A pretty good average my ass can attest to. The horses did great. We found some puddles from the recent rain to cross and even when my jacket flew off the back of Jessie she stayed calm.

Sunday was switch horses day. Halloween - how fitting. We took each others horse out groomed and tacked up in our respective area (as opposed to the horse's). We then did a little ground work to make sure no one had a problem with the different saddles and bits they were supporting. And, it was off to the development. We practiced some one-rein stops to see how the horses would do, but other than that we were on our own. Instead of offering each other suggestions we wanted to see how the horses did and felt without trying to accommodate our movements to what THEY were used to. It worked out well. I got to see how much work it was to keep Dusty side-by-side with Jessie and she got to feel how big Jessie's trot is. Dusty and I crossed a few puddles and he stayed, for the most part, calm. We had a couple of loping sessions and I got to feel how it is to try and keep him going. But he has a very smooth lope and it's very comfortable to sit. (My sore thigh muscles were appreciative). It was fun having a horse that could neck rein and one that was more responsive to the bit. (Jessie has steering issues) Both horses have a good stop. It was kinda like driving a rental car for a while: we got to do the stuff we would normally do and the stuff we might not have tried. Ranae did some jumping over pipes with Jessie and I did a fast run down with Dusty. The Garmin said he got up to a whopping 15 mph!

It was a fun experience and a good way to practice our horsemanship skills. I mean, you hope you don't get complacent with your horse, but it's hard not to riding the same horse, the same way every time. And that's why we changed it up...